THERESA May is hoping to salvage her twice-defeated Brexit deal with a weekend of talks with the DUP after a “constructive” meeting on Friday.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds met the Prime Minister’s deputy David Lidington, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Tory chief whip Julian Smith at the Cabinet Office.

Some previous hardline Brexiters also signalled they could reluctantly back Mrs May’s deal at the third offering next week, rather than see a long and possibly fatal delay to Brexit.

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, who quit the cabinet over the deal, said people may “take a bad deal rather than no deal”.

It coincided with opposition squabbling over cross-party talks.

Jeremy Corbyn wrote individually to the leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, LibDems and Greens to meet him to discuss a compromise soft Brexit based on Labour’s customs union plan.

The four then wrote back jointly inviting Mr Corbyn to meet them on Monday with a People’s Vote put “at the top of the agenda” and halting Brexit altogether a “priority”.

The pre-conditions make it harder for Mr Corbyn to accept, as Labour’s policy is to support Brexit and only move to a People’s Vote if all else fails.

Mr Dodds, whose party has opposed the deal because of the Irish backstop, said there had been some progress on the issue, but talks would continue over the weekend.

Mr Cox’s role will be crucial. It was his advice that the UK could remain in the customs union indefinitely if the backstop is triggered that helped ensure defeats for Mrs May’s deal in January and again this week.

Mr Dodds denied he had been talking about more cash for Northern Ireland.

He said: “For us the key problem with the Withdrawal Agreement is the Irish backstop.

“From day one, our focus has been on the red line of how Northern Ireland is treated separately from the rest of the UK. That is the issue that has been the priority concern for us. There is a renewed focus in Government on ensuring those issues are addressed.”

Mrs May sees the DUP as key to unlocking the Brexit impasse as scores of Tory MPs would follow their lead if they were to back her deal.

However she received a blow when Mr Cox’s suggestion that the UK could unilaterally exit the backstop under the Vienna Convention was rejected by Eurosceptic lawyers.

The ‘star chamber’, which includes Mr Dodds, said the idea was “badly misconceived”.

Her withdrawal plan goes to a third meaningful vote early next week.

If passed, Mrs May will ask EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday for a Brexit delay beyond March 29, to June 30, so final legislation can pass at Westminster.

If rejected, she will have to ask for a far longer delay, possibly a year or more, a prospect she would then use to threaten MPs in a fourth vote.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who urged MPs to back a government motion on delaying Brexit on Thursday minutes before voting against it himself, said he was ready for no-deal.

He told the BBC: “If we don’t have a deal, then we should leave with no deal. That’s always been my position. We shouldn’t be afraid to leave with no deal.”

EU Council president Donald Tusk met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague on Friday, and will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday, and then Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday.

Mr Tusk said: “I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”

In his letter to SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Mr Corbyn said he wanted to use Labour’s customs union plan “as a starting point for any discussions”, but said his team also wanted “to hear about the plans you are advocating”.

He said: “We are keen to see if there is scope to find common ground between our respective proposals and to work together to break the impasse.”

Mr Blackford said: I look forward to continuing discussions with the other Westminster party leaders on holding a second EU referendum, with the option to remain. I hope Jeremy Corbyn will now join us - after two years of declining invitations to talk.”

Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: “It’s no surprise to see Labour and the SNP reaching out to each other again. And Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t care a jot that the price of such an arrangement will be a second referendum on independence. It proves yet again that Labour would rather get into bed with the nationalists than stand up to them.”

Visiting Dublin, EU agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan criticised the UK’s no-deal tariff plans as likely to breach WTO rules and designed to distract from “political chaos”.